The Problem With Conversational Marketing
The Problem With Conversational Marketing
by

Social media marketing essentially evolved from The Cluetrain Manifesto assertion that markets are conversations. The world of social media then exploded and conversational platforms, tools and networks evolved. Markets are conversations … whatever that means. When you translate it into the practical, not the etherial, you have to try and figure out conversational marketing.

How do you have conversations with people with the intent of promoting a product or service? Or, to borrow Chris Heuer’s seemingly altruistic fantasy of marketing, how do you have conversations with people with the intent of helping them buy a product or service? More specifically, how do you have these conversations in mediums (social platforms) where people’s participation is theoretically predicated on the belief they don’t want to be marketed to?

Conversations by Yuri Arcurs on Shutterstock.comResponsible social media advice is that conversational marketing occurs when you build trust and relationships, provide value to your audience and become the go-to resource when that audience is ready to buy what you sell. But if we are to truly build trust and relationships with our audiences, a problem arises:

The trust you build is largely dependent upon the ability to convince them your intent is pure.

Our intent is to market. While relative, our intent is not wholly pure, is it?

The stereotype of a car salesman is they are interested in the sale, not the customer. The stereotype of the public relations person is they’re interested in the placement, not the media member. A marketer, in the public’s eyes, is a salesman. Our audience is predisposed to not trust us.

If we act, though, not as marketers, but as members of the community, network or environment in which we’re participating with the audience, do we chip away at that mistrust?

And if we do, how long does it take before we earn enough of it to accomplish our goals?

Or does accomplishing them prove the mistrust was justified?

Conversational marketing success is only possible when your genuine participation — not motivated my marketing goals — earns your audience’s permission to share information that is.

Still, you can interrupt someone saying they need to buy a watch with, “I sell watches, can I help?” and earn a sale.

Conversational marketing is an inexact science. But isn’t it fun to explore?

IMAGE: Conversations by Yuri Arcurs on Shutterstock.com

About the Author

Jason Falls
Jason Falls is the founder of Social Media Explorer and one of the most notable and outspoken voices in the social media marketing industry. He is a noted marketing keynote speaker, author of two books and unapologetic bourbon aficionado. He can also be found at JasonFalls.com.
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  • carolesmaclean

    You can be honest and authentic, and STILL have as your intent to make money, right? I don't think those are mutually exclusive. Can you honestly try to help someone, with the intent to make money from this offer? Yes… I have to believe this is still possible.

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  • carolesmaclean

    You can be honest and authentic, and STILL have as your intent to make money, right? I don't think those are mutually exclusive. Can you honestly try to help someone, with the intent to make money from this offer? Yes… I have to believe this is still possible.

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  • It is an interesting topic. But I do not see how it is different from sales pitching or customer service as some people had pointed out. And I don't think this should apply to car sales or house sales as those things are usually one-sale per customer. What I mean is you do not expect them to come back. I think this would work well for food businesses or hotels, restaurants–products and services that you would want people to keep coming back for more.
    I've seen Starbucks and other establishments set up their Facebook accounts and this is how they interact with their customers by collecting fans. They also announce discounts and other events that they know would interest their customers. I've seen this done in Twitter as well. And I think it has been very effective. Will it work for products like cars or houses? Maybe cars and gadgets, people would want to hear reviews from other consumers who have tried the product rather than hear it from a sales person who worked for that company–because as many have pointed out, they are more interested in the sale rather than the person.
    And I agree with the other guy (sorry, forgot your name) that you should let your customer talk to the other customer for you. Now, this is tricky. But it is effective. For a good review to come from a third person point of view is holds more weight in being genuine and real than it coming from a person paid to sell you stuff.
    Don't get me started on automated responses and forwarded emails. Anyone could recognize it as a spam even if it's not.
    I also agree with the other guy who said it's about listening to your customer. Usually if customers have questions or concerns, they would come to you and contact you. If you take the extra effort to genuinely help them with their problem, it could be very valuable to your business. So, here are some tips on that http://sn.im/uxp1n

  • It is an interesting topic. But I do not see how it is different from sales pitching or customer service as some people had pointed out. And I don't think this should apply to car sales or house sales as those things are usually one-sale per customer. What I mean is you do not expect them to come back. I think this would work well for food businesses or hotels, restaurants–products and services that you would want people to keep coming back for more.
    I've seen Starbucks and other establishments set up their Facebook accounts and this is how they interact with their customers by collecting fans. They also announce discounts and other events that they know would interest their customers. I've seen this done in Twitter as well. And I think it has been very effective. Will it work for products like cars or houses? Maybe cars and gadgets, people would want to hear reviews from other consumers who have tried the product rather than hear it from a sales person who worked for that company–because as many have pointed out, they are more interested in the sale rather than the person.
    And I agree with the other guy (sorry, forgot your name) that you should let your customer talk to the other customer for you. Now, this is tricky. But it is effective. For a good review to come from a third person point of view is holds more weight in being genuine and real than it coming from a person paid to sell you stuff.
    Don't get me started on automated responses and forwarded emails. Anyone could recognize it as a spam even if it's not.
    I also agree with the other guy who said it's about listening to your customer. Usually if customers have questions or concerns, they would come to you and contact you. If you take the extra effort to genuinely help them with their problem, it could be very valuable to your business. So, here are some tips on that http://sn.im/uxp1n

  • iancleary

    Who said all conversations had to be from brand to customer and vice versa. How about getting your customers to talk to customers?

  • It is indeed an important issue, but very few people actually have the skills to be successful in conversational marketing. i don't think it's just about the knowledge you have in this case, you need to have the right personality as well. Of course, you can polish it into that direction, but unless you got in your blood from the very beginning it is extremly difficult to…manipulate a conversation in the direction you want in a subtle way.

  • It is indeed an important issue, but very few people actually have the skills to be successful in conversational marketing. i don't think it's just about the knowledge you have in this case, you need to have the right personality as well. Of course, you can polish it into that direction, but unless you got in your blood from the very beginning it is extremly difficult to…manipulate a conversation in the direction you want in a subtle way.

  • Jason,
    You hit the nail on the head with “the public thinks of you as a sale person.” You are dead on. The next problem is once the marketer establishes rapport, AND the other party has a need that your product can solve for them, YOU (the person they've come to know/trust) don't want to actually want to perform the sale. What you really want is to hand them to someone else to take care of the details. Your handing them to a stranger with no background on what they want, what knowledge/information you've shared with them, etc. They've been thrown to the wolves.

    The real art to it is having an elegant and informed hand off where the person who needs to buy feels like you're doing them a favor by bringing in a subject matter expert who is informed about THEM and the product.

  • Jason,
    You hit the nail on the head with “the public thinks of you as a sale person.” You are dead on. The next problem is once the marketer establishes rapport, AND the other party has a need that your product can solve for them, YOU (the person they've come to know/trust) don't want to actually want to perform the sale. What you really want is to hand them to someone else to take care of the details. Your handing them to a stranger with no background on what they want, what knowledge/information you've shared with them, etc. They've been thrown to the wolves.

    The real art to it is having an elegant and informed hand off where the person who needs to buy feels like you're doing them a favor by bringing in a subject matter expert who is informed about THEM and the product.

  • suehouserwinant

    Conversational marketing has been practiced for centuries by fundraisers. This is exactly what we have always done…build relationships and trust with folks to help them decide to do a wonderful thing and help your org. accomplish a mission that you both believe in. The very best fundraisers and salespeople and marketers are very similar in style and mission.

  • suehouserwinant

    Conversational marketing has been practiced for centuries by fundraisers. This is exactly what we have always done…build relationships and trust with folks to help them decide to do a wonderful thing and help your org. accomplish a mission that you both believe in. The very best fundraisers and salespeople and marketers are very similar in style and mission.

  • Good point Jason. I think the real reason a lot of marketers fail in selling this or that is because their original intent IS to just make money and sell more products/services. Yes, you want to make money but if that's all you're focused on versus genuinely helping others in some way, your plan will eventually surprise you.

    In a nutshell, those who are honest and authentic with their audience, end up winning in the long run.

  • Good point Jason. I think the real reason a lot of marketers fail in selling this or that is because their original intent IS to just make money and sell more products/services. Yes, you want to make money but if that's all you're focused on versus genuinely helping others in some way, your plan will eventually surprise you.

    In a nutshell, those who are honest and authentic with their audience, end up winning in the long run.

    • carolesmaclean

      You can be honest and authentic, and STILL have as your intent to make money, right? I don't think those are mutually exclusive. Can you honestly try to help someone, with the intent to make money from this offer? Yes… I have to believe this is still possible.

  • I think it is much harder to be a conversational marketer when you are used to doing business online.

  • I think it is much harder to be a conversational marketer when you are used to doing business online.

  • Re: scaling conversations… Don't companies already do this with physical sales staffs on the floor at retail locations (e.g. BestBuy)? These same types of conversations can occur online. With the right knowledge and personality, you can sell a lot of anything when sharing opinion, filtering and offering valuable info to individual customers.

    To scale it online – maybe just type faster…?… or build a better response tool. Problem is that the customer touchpoints are so scattered online. It's a major effort to track everyone down, organize them and eliminate or avoid repetition/redundancy.

  • Re: scaling conversations… Don't companies already do this with physical sales staffs on the floor at retail locations (e.g. BestBuy)? These same types of conversations can occur online. With the right knowledge and personality, you can sell a lot of anything when sharing opinion, filtering and offering valuable info to individual customers.

    To scale it online – maybe just type faster…?… or build a better response tool. Problem is that the customer touchpoints are so scattered online. It's a major effort to track everyone down, organize them and eliminate or avoid repetition/redundancy.

  • prguyonline

    Hey David,

    Marketeers need to think like publishers.

    A publisher creates content with a specific audience in mind. They research and study their audience to gain an understanding of what inspires them, their passions and what keeps them up at night. The better you know your audience, the more your material will resonate.

    Say you’re a gym owner looking to pump up your client base. You know two things about your prospects; they’re health conscious and they want to look good on the beach. So why not start a blog offering nutritional advice and low-cal recipes? Create a conversation with your readers by asking them to send in their favorite recipes. You could even ask gym members and staff to guest post from time to time.

    Maybe you’re a real estate broker trying to build business. You could run the ubiquitous business card ad in the local newspaper showing your pearly whites. Or you could think about your audience and what factors into their decision when buying a new home. If they have kids, chances are they want to know about the local schools. Create and narrate a video that gives an overview of the local school system. You could interview principals, parents, teachers etc. Another option is to create a video for empty nesters showcasing local restaurants, cafes and cultural offerings.

    Hope this helps.

    Sean Horrigan

  • David

    You say “As marketeers we need to stifle the sales pitch and create content that educates and engages our audience.”

    Then you say, “Ask yourself, what content can I create that will compel my audience to buy?”

    For years people have been asking this question. The answer most people came to was 'sales pitch'.

  • As an addendum to yesterday's comment, which was:

    “Relevancy. It's all about relevancy. When a company reaches out to engage and promote/inform regarding a product or service, it has to do so through a relevant conversation. If the product/services isn't relevant to the conversation already occurring then the attempt hits the wall with a resounding splat. People don't want to be interrupted by a sales pitch. They often actively seek information and opinions, however. Great post!”

    I wanted to share this post of mine from January about Relevancy and Engagement: http://is.gd/biz6k

    (would've shared yesterday but was having some minor blog issues)

  • As an addendum to yesterday's comment, which was:

    “Relevancy. It's all about relevancy. When a company reaches out to engage and promote/inform regarding a product or service, it has to do so through a relevant conversation. If the product/services isn't relevant to the conversation already occurring then the attempt hits the wall with a resounding splat. People don't want to be interrupted by a sales pitch. They often actively seek information and opinions, however. Great post!”

    I wanted to share this post of mine from January about Relevancy and Engagement: http://is.gd/biz6k

    (would've shared yesterday but was having some minor blog issues)

  • “You'd need an automated conversational system to do that (and, some new ones are pretty remarkable). In fact, there is the ability to personalize each interaction”

    Exactly, and this is called eMail and it's still the most effective and preferred vendor interaction tool for people who already have a relationship with a company.

  • @gerardbabitts! Its been a while since I read your comments, but each time I do I get to liking you more and more. Your response is spot-on, RE: conversational marketing.

  • UrbaneWay

    Hey Jason,
    I wanted to weigh in here on what our direct experience was this year at SwSW, and how that is further propelling our shift in our marketing directives and initiatives, specific to Conversational Marketing. Urbane co-sponsored the road trip for the #DETChevySXSW Detroit Team, http://detroitsxsw.com/ where they competed with eight other teams across the nation for a chance to win a $10,000 sponsored tweet up in their hometown from Chevy.

    What I want to articulate here is the unorthodox path to a significant result, which for us is simply to Rent More Apartments.

    To quote my colleague Dan McCarthy: “The marketers who do that the best will have creative and literate marketing leaders who are able to tell a story, let it acquire dimension and let it loose from the defined constraints of a brand. This is the stuff of folklore meshed into marketing, and the thought of that evolution is unsettling, no matter how oriented you are to the potential of social media tools”

    Here is a re-cap of what unfolded over the ten day road trip from Detroit to Austin. Pretty high profile event with our core prospect demographic, and for Urbane to be on the same ticket with Chevy illustrates the leverage and reach of Partnership Marketing. The following that this generated locally was pretty cool, and with most of the thousands, (yes over ten thousand) of Tweets and Re-Tweets, Urbane was attached, to lot's of them. Add in the dozen or so blogs, then the video blogs by this crew with their thanks to Urbane not only significantly broadened our local reach of available rental prospects, it also heightened awareness with prominent bloggers.

    We have just compiled our March Traffic numbers
    -) Traffic; Up 64% Year over Year Results
    -) Tours; Up 42% Year over Year Results
    -) Rentals; Up 178% Year over Year Results (No Concessions either)
    -) With the increased rentals, we finalized two straggling lease-ups and pushed occupancy of our stabilized communities to 98%
    -) Our Digital Footprint of our combined Urbane Digital Assets expanded to a little over 16,000 visitors in March

    But here is the point, no one from Urbane told any of these stories, that was handed off to the Brand Ambassadors, and with that, you don't even get to moderate much of what they are saying or doing, let alone control it. That is part of the difficulty that folks have with Social Media Marketing. I can tell you that each of the four we helped send off were expert publishers, each with an impressive brand reach themselves, and I am delighted that they have made a choice to share our Urbane Brand with so many of their friends and following they have influence over. Maybe Controlling the Message has long been an overrated fear.

  • UrbaneWay

    Hey Jason,
    I wanted to weigh in here on what our direct experience was this year at SwSW, and how that is further propelling our shift in our marketing directives and initiatives, specific to Conversational Marketing. Urbane co-sponsored the road trip for the #DETChevySXSW Detroit Team, http://detroitsxsw.com/ where they competed with eight other teams across the nation for a chance to win a $10,000 sponsored tweet up in their hometown from Chevy.

    What I want to articulate here is the unorthodox path to a significant result, which for us is simply to Rent More Apartments.

    To quote my colleague Dan McCarthy: “The marketers who do that the best will have creative and literate marketing leaders who are able to tell a story, let it acquire dimension and let it loose from the defined constraints of a brand. This is the stuff of folklore meshed into marketing, and the thought of that evolution is unsettling, no matter how oriented you are to the potential of social media tools”

    Here is a re-cap of what unfolded over the ten day road trip from Detroit to Austin. Pretty high profile event with our core prospect demographic, and for Urbane to be on the same ticket with Chevy illustrates the leverage and reach of Partnership Marketing. The following that this generated locally was pretty cool, and with most of the thousands, (yes over ten thousand) of Tweets and Re-Tweets, Urbane was attached, to lot's of them. Add in the dozen or so blogs, then the video blogs by this crew with their thanks to Urbane not only significantly broadened our local reach of available rental prospects, it also heightened awareness with prominent bloggers.

    We have just compiled our March Traffic numbers
    -) Traffic; Up 64% Year over Year Results
    -) Tours; Up 42% Year over Year Results
    -) Rentals; Up 178% Year over Year Results (No Concessions either)
    -) With the increased rentals, we finalized two straggling lease-ups and pushed occupancy of our stabilized communities to 98%
    -) Our Digital Footprint of our combined Urbane Digital Assets expanded to a little over 16,000 visitors in March

    But here is the point, no one from Urbane told any of these stories, that was handed off to the Brand Ambassadors, and with that, you don't even get to moderate much of what they are saying or doing, let alone control it. That is part of the difficulty that folks have with Social Media Marketing. I can tell you that each of the four we helped send off were expert publishers, each with an impressive brand reach themselves, and I am delighted that they have made a choice to share our Urbane Brand with so many of their friends and following they have influence over. Maybe Controlling the Message has long been an overrated fear.

  • dphillips4363

    Jason, I like this debate.
    What Bruno Amaral and I have been doing for the last couple of years is to look at the network to identify semantic concepts in online discourse. The work has shown that people group around these concepts (yes it is almost Grunigian). We also identified that they often talk about the concepts or a derivative..

    For the marketer, knowing the semantic concepts that describe your own organisation is very helpful. It means that if you can identify these concepts in the social space, these people will have an interest in your values. By extension, you can examine their discourse and see what other things interest them when they have your organisation's values in mind.

    Your organisation can look at these ideas and may like to adapt to become closer to its constituency.

    The close to the constituency, the more the attraction of the organisation.

    The hard part of this is that when we look at these concepts (you can set up an example of your own here http://reputationwall.appspot.com/?sid=901037) there are more than the traditional marketer would want. This is not the 'five key brand values' of 20th century marketing. It is about the interests of communities in which your organisation plays a part.

    Perhaps this is where Cluetrain comes in. These words are the stuff of, if you like, the agenda of online conversations.

    This is the key that unlocks Semantic Public Relations.

  • dphillips4363

    Jason, I like this debate.
    What Bruno Amaral and I have been doing for the last couple of years is to look at the network to identify semantic concepts in online discourse. The work has shown that people group around these concepts (yes it is almost Grunigian). We also identified that they often talk about the concepts or a derivative..

    For the marketer, knowing the semantic concepts that describe your own organisation is very helpful. It means that if you can identify these concepts in the social space, these people will have an interest in your values. By extension, you can examine their discourse and see what other things interest them when they have your organisation's values in mind.

    Your organisation can look at these ideas and may like to adapt to become closer to its constituency.

    The close to the constituency, the more the attraction of the organisation.

    The hard part of this is that when we look at these concepts (you can set up an example of your own here http://reputationwall.appspot.com/?sid=901037) there are more than the traditional marketer would want. This is not the 'five key brand values' of 20th century marketing. It is about the interests of communities in which your organisation plays a part.

    Perhaps this is where Cluetrain comes in. These words are the stuff of, if you like, the agenda of online conversations.

    This is the key that unlocks Semantic Public Relations.

  • Very true – genuine engagement and communication is key. Having your community trust you is something every advertiser should work for. Thanks for your eloquence Mr. Falls!

  • Very true – genuine engagement and communication is key. Having your community trust you is something every advertiser should work for. Thanks for your eloquence Mr. Falls!

  • And you know Jason, sometimes when you really think you've got it right, you don't. Communities can be fickle from one day to the next. You could have ten people who trust you and ten others who don't, though all 20 have seen the exact same thing and witnessed the exact conversations and other actions. There is no winning formula.

  • And you know Jason, sometimes when you really think you've got it right, you don't. Communities can be fickle from one day to the next. You could have ten people who trust you and ten others who don't, though all 20 have seen the exact same thing and witnessed the exact conversations and other actions. There is no winning formula.

  • I'm not convinced size has anything to do with it.

    I think what you and a lot of people in the comments are talking about is really CRM. And while I agree that everyone at a company is technically marketing the product, things like listening, outreach, problem solving, and thanking is part of just doing great customer service. These are crucially important things for a successful business but they are not the heart of marketing a product.

    Again, Apple proves the point. Apple has a great product that works and they have an in-store (and online) customer service experience that leaves most customers feeling like they have been taken care of by a smart, welcoming staff.

  • Well said @jebworks. Participation, community, and personal engagement. It's less about marketing and more about building trust, brand loyalty, and relationships with customers. Regarding Michael's comment, I don't think that you can have that many conversations either. Perhaps it's not going to be as effective for a brand like Best Buy to use social media for the purposes of having conversations, but rather do something that really uses the engagement that comes with social media. I don't think that social media is the only tool in your belt, it is just part of an overall strategy and it has to be used properly to be effective.

  • Social web engagement, and I use this term deliberately, rather than social media marketing, is not primarily about trying to have a direct conversation with millions of potential or actual customers. That is exactly the old marketing mindset of oneway marketing. Today it is about participating in the conversation that takes place about your brand and first of all learning from it. Then, if done right, by using an authentic voice, the brand can be personalized as people prefer to deal with people rather than impersonal brands. By doing so, the objective should be to have others talk about you ultimately as evangelists. With the mindset of trying to control the conversation and keep broadcasting, failure is inevitable.

  • Social web engagement, and I use this term deliberately, rather than social media marketing, is not primarily about trying to have a direct conversation with millions of potential or actual customers. That is exactly the old marketing mindset of oneway marketing. Today it is about participating in the conversation that takes place about your brand and first of all learning from it. Then, if done right, by using an authentic voice, the brand can be personalized as people prefer to deal with people rather than impersonal brands. By doing so, the objective should be to have others talk about you ultimately as evangelists. With the mindset of trying to control the conversation and keep broadcasting, failure is inevitable.

    • Well said @jebworks. Participation, community, and personal engagement. It's less about marketing and more about building trust, brand loyalty, and relationships with customers. Regarding Michael's comment, I don't think that you can have that many conversations either. Perhaps it's not going to be as effective for a brand like Best Buy to use social media for the purposes of having conversations, but rather do something that really uses the engagement that comes with social media. I don't think that social media is the only tool in your belt, it is just part of an overall strategy and it has to be used properly to be effective.

  • Hal

    None of which were any topics — as far as I can make out from what you're saying — that I was addressing.

    I wasn't criticizing your kumbaya moments, I was pointing out that that is not the underlying fundamental to conversational marketing that prompts everyone all of the time. Nor have I ever been to Kansas City. Have you? It's probably nicer than Austin tho:) & certainly much less pretentious.

  • Michael

    Social media marketing and actual conversational marketing are two different creatures. Simply, you can't have a “conversation” with 10,000, 100,000, 1,000,000 etc. customers each day. Even BEST BUY'S @twelpforce (with a team of what? 2500 on floor reps who are pulled off to Tweet) can't properly handle truly high volumes of conversation. And, I don't believe they are available around the clock.

    You'd need an automated conversational system to do that (and, some new ones are pretty remarkable). In fact, there is the ability to personalize each interaction, so, conceivable, one canned response could have 1,000,000 variations on the theme. And, the Brand could actually aggregate User conversations to get a picture of “what people are talking about.” With daily analytics.

    Social media marketing/conversations are typically among a very small elite – and, are keeping a few people employed who have convinced their employers that they are really needed for the Brand to succeed in the day/age of Twitter and FB. It's more sham than scam. But, it's meaningless; Brands still buy real-world Billboards, print and television. Perhaps at reduced rates, but, compared to the social media conversation spend?

    The real problem with “conversational marketing” is that it can't scale. It's worthless with any need for volume.

  • Michael

    Social media marketing and actual conversational marketing are two different creatures. Simply, you can't have a “conversation” with 10,000, 100,000, 1,000,000 etc. customers each day. Even BEST BUY'S @twelpforce (with a team of what? 2500 on floor reps who are pulled off to Tweet) can't properly handle truly high volumes of conversation. And, I don't believe they are available around the clock.

    You'd need an automated conversational system to do that (and, some new ones are pretty remarkable). In fact, there is the ability to personalize each interaction, so, conceivable, one canned response could have 1,000,000 variations on the theme. And, the Brand could actually aggregate User conversations to get a picture of “what people are talking about.” With daily analytics.

    Social media marketing/conversations are typically among a very small elite – and, are keeping a few people employed who have convinced their employers that they are really needed for the Brand to succeed in the day/age of Twitter and FB. It's more sham than scam. But, it's meaningless; Brands still buy real-world Billboards, print and television. Perhaps at reduced rates, but, compared to the social media conversation spend?

    The real problem with “conversational marketing” is that it can't scale. It's worthless with any need for volume.

    • “You'd need an automated conversational system to do that (and, some new ones are pretty remarkable). In fact, there is the ability to personalize each interaction”

      Exactly, and this is called eMail and it's still the most effective and preferred vendor interaction tool for people who already have a relationship with a company.

    • iancleary

      Who said all conversations had to be from brand to customer and vice versa. How about getting your customers to talk to customers?

  • This is a provocative approach. Maybe this is right for a company the size of Apple. I still think that engaging in the conversation is one way to show you're actually listening. Sometimes the approach is to say, “thank you for mentioning us!” or “I'm sorry that happened to you, here's something that can help.”

  • Social media + marketing *does not* = advertising opportunities.

    More refreshing is answering a customer's needs. Its implied that I'd prefer if you did business with me instead of my competitor. That doesn't need to be said. What does need to be said is, “I am here to help you.” After listening, I've told clients, “I don't think my company is right for you but here are a few things that will help.” Maybe I didn't get a sale from that conversation but it will probably pay dividends in brand equity, referrals and help the space gain momentum overall.

    What you can do is share information. Share it in a format that helps the consumer – share resources, offer tips, email a link, tell a story about how someone in a similar position found what they needed. Speak first about your industry, then – if useful – about your company and then -again, if useful – about your products. (this is also a good format for measuring social media but that's probably for another post!).

    Offering information without asking for something in return lends to trust. Trust is very a influential part of the buying decision – engage around people's needs and not only will you help the people in your conversation, but you'll leave behind relevant info for the people who come along later.

    Great post Jason!
    @erinkoro / @scoutlabs

  • Social media + marketing *does not* = advertising opportunities.

    More refreshing is answering a customer's needs. Its implied that I'd prefer if you did business with me instead of my competitor. That doesn't need to be said. What does need to be said is, “I am here to help you.” After listening, I've told clients, “I don't think my company is right for you but here are a few things that will help.” Maybe I didn't get a sale from that conversation but it will probably pay dividends in brand equity, referrals and help the space gain momentum overall.

    What you can do is share information. Share it in a format that helps the consumer – share resources, offer tips, email a link, tell a story about how someone in a similar position found what they needed. Speak first about your industry, then – if useful – about your company and then -again, if useful – about your products. (this is also a good format for measuring social media but that's probably for another post!).

    Offering information without asking for something in return lends to trust. Trust is very a influential part of the buying decision – engage around people's needs and not only will you help the people in your conversation, but you'll leave behind relevant info for the people who come along later.

    Great post Jason!
    @erinkoro / @scoutlabs

  • I remember conversational marketing when it was known by a simpler name — propaganda. All of our talk of conversation or engagement is merely a not-so-new cynical attempt to get into the mind and life flow of consumers. Here's an idea — one that 99% of marketers refuse to do — stay out of the conversation. Let people have conversations without you having to stick your company nose and “value” into it. Without the false pretense of wanting to have two-way conversation.

    You know how you create value? By making a great product or service. Just ask Apple. They do almost no curation or interruption of conversations. The conversations you hear online and offline about them are created the old fashioned way — Apple earns it. In short, their brand promise and product value is so great, people testify (or trash) without any need for old school Apple to get anywhere near the conversation.

  • I remember conversational marketing when it was known by a simpler name — propaganda. All of our talk of conversation or engagement is merely a not-so-new cynical attempt to get into the mind and life flow of consumers. Here's an idea — one that 99% of marketers refuse to do — stay out of the conversation. Let people have conversations without you having to stick your company nose and “value” into it. Without the false pretense of wanting to have two-way conversation.

    You know how you create value? By making a great product or service. Just ask Apple. They do almost no curation or interruption of conversations. The conversations you hear online and offline about them are created the old fashioned way — Apple earns it. In short, their brand promise and product value is so great, people testify (or trash) without any need for old school Apple to get anywhere near the conversation.

    • This is a provocative approach. Maybe this is right for a company the size of Apple. I still think that engaging in the conversation is one way to show you're actually listening. Sometimes the approach is to say, “thank you for mentioning us!” or “I'm sorry that happened to you, here's something that can help.”

      • I'm not convinced size has anything to do with it.

        I think what you and a lot of people in the comments are talking about is really CRM. And while I agree that everyone at a company is technically marketing the product, things like listening, outreach, problem solving, and thanking is part of just doing great customer service. These are crucially important things for a successful business but they are not the heart of marketing a product.

        Again, Apple proves the point. Apple has a great product that works and they have an in-store (and online) customer service experience that leaves most customers feeling like they have been taken care of by a smart, welcoming staff.

    • @gerardbabitts! Its been a while since I read your comments, but each time I do I get to liking you more and more. Your response is spot-on, RE: conversational marketing.

  • Love this line: “how do you have these conversations in mediums (social platforms) where people’s participation is theoretically predicated on the belief they don’t want to be marketed to?” Very well said. Surprising this social media stuff even works eh.

  • Love this line: “how do you have these conversations in mediums (social platforms) where people’s participation is theoretically predicated on the belief they don’t want to be marketed to?” Very well said. Surprising this social media stuff even works eh.

  • more simply put. Show them you want to please them more than you want to sell them. They want to buy.. just listen and love

  • more simply put. Show them you want to please them more than you want to sell them. They want to buy.. just listen and love

  • dianagal

    The thing about being passionate – people join social groups because they share an interest and that is why they are “hanging out” together online. Marketers that are joining this hang out are there for the sole purpose of getting a sale. There will always be a “vulture” aspect because these people are prey for some marketing tactic. Why pretend to be their friends?

    It's like if someone came to a party at your house and tried to sell gold watches to your friends. If they are interesting and interested in the guests, it's mildly annoying. If they only talk about buying a watch, you would ask them to leave.

    It's the intent. I have seen many posts that were clearly by marketers disguising themselves as buyers -refuting a negative product review, posting a glowing review of their product,etc.

    On the other hand, I've been in groups where the products/services were relevant – and the marketer/sales person shared product information, acknowledged shortcomings of the product and pointed to places where they were going to improve. This is a conversation. And it works.

  • dianagal

    The thing about being passionate – people join social groups because they share an interest and that is why they are “hanging out” together online. Marketers that are joining this hang out are there for the sole purpose of getting a sale. There will always be a “vulture” aspect because these people are prey for some marketing tactic. Why pretend to be their friends?

    It's like if someone came to a party at your house and tried to sell gold watches to your friends. If they are interesting and interested in the guests, it's mildly annoying. If they only talk about buying a watch, you would ask them to leave.

    It's the intent. I have seen many posts that were clearly by marketers disguising themselves as buyers -refuting a negative product review, posting a glowing review of their product,etc.

    On the other hand, I've been in groups where the products/services were relevant – and the marketer/sales person shared product information, acknowledged shortcomings of the product and pointed to places where they were going to improve. This is a conversation. And it works.

  • prguyonline

    Jason,

    Very thought provoking post. I think it Michael Rubin hits it on the nose. As marketeers we need to stifle the sales pitch and create content that educates and engages our audience.

    Ask yourself, what content can I create that will compel my audience to buy?

  • prguyonline

    Jason,

    Very thought provoking post. I think it Michael Rubin hits it on the nose. As marketeers we need to stifle the sales pitch and create content that educates and engages our audience.

    Ask yourself, what content can I create that will compel my audience to buy?

    • David

      You say “As marketeers we need to stifle the sales pitch and create content that educates and engages our audience.”

      Then you say, “Ask yourself, what content can I create that will compel my audience to buy?”

      For years people have been asking this question. The answer most people came to was 'sales pitch'.

      • prguyonline

        Hey David,

        Marketeers need to think like publishers.

        A publisher creates content with a specific audience in mind. They research and study their audience to gain an understanding of what inspires them, their passions and what keeps them up at night. The better you know your audience, the more your material will resonate.

        Say you’re a gym owner looking to pump up your client base. You know two things about your prospects; they’re health conscious and they want to look good on the beach. So why not start a blog offering nutritional advice and low-cal recipes? Create a conversation with your readers by asking them to send in their favorite recipes. You could even ask gym members and staff to guest post from time to time.

        Maybe you’re a real estate broker trying to build business. You could run the ubiquitous business card ad in the local newspaper showing your pearly whites. Or you could think about your audience and what factors into their decision when buying a new home. If they have kids, chances are they want to know about the local schools. Create and narrate a video that gives an overview of the local school system. You could interview principals, parents, teachers etc. Another option is to create a video for empty nesters showcasing local restaurants, cafes and cultural offerings.

        Hope this helps.

        Sean Horrigan

  • Hal, no offense to you because everyone is certainly entitled to make a living, but you come across here as a weary lubricant salesman working the yearly convention in Kansas City. That's fine, but I don't think that's what we're talking about here.

    There's a difference (and a grey area) between salespeople having conversations with [potential] customers and marketing specialists pushing information out to [potential] customers. That grey area is where “conversational marketing” or “business opportunism” or whatever the phrase is lies. It's a hybrid activity, it's a modification of business development, it's a tweak of CRM and marketing.

    It's hard to define, but everyone knows when someone's great at it.

    In the way of defending 'krusk' I think that her three pillars of (1) actually enjoy meeting people, (2) authentically listen to what they say, and (3) be genuinely passionate about your company or product, are absolutely terrific. I work for a company about which I am truly passionate. If you don't, that's okay, but it's not necessary to criticize that ideal – because I think it is ideal.

  • My shop did an extensive study last year, in conjunction with CIO Magazine, of what it takes to sell to CIOs today. It revealed a dilemma that's growing worse all the time for everybody, buyers and sellers alike. The CIOs want no part of unsolicited inquiries, no matter who's inquiring. But they say they want vendors to know the very things that they are unwilling to take the time to reveal. Still the vendors call and email more aggressively that ever. And the CIOs become more annoyed. Anyone who figures a way out of this should be in for a big reward.

  • My shop did an extensive study last year, in conjunction with CIO Magazine, of what it takes to sell to CIOs today. It revealed a dilemma that's growing worse all the time for everybody, buyers and sellers alike. The CIOs want no part of unsolicited inquiries, no matter who's inquiring. But they say they want vendors to know the very things that they are unwilling to take the time to reveal. Still the vendors call and email more aggressively that ever. And the CIOs become more annoyed. Anyone who figures a way out of this should be in for a big reward.

  • Yes, I like this – it's not marketing, it's “guerrilla business development” – so true.

  • Ditto.

  • This is one reason why I think sales and marketing should be combined. It's one thing to have a socmed “conversation” and quite another to have a real conversation with a client. Two very different skillsets, but they help each other. Marketers understand the power of reach by definition, but they are often not great at forming and nurturing relationships. Sales people tend to be the opposite. Combining them well can be a significant advantage.

  • This is one reason why I think sales and marketing should be combined. It's one thing to have a socmed “conversation” and quite another to have a real conversation with a client. Two very different skillsets, but they help each other. Marketers understand the power of reach by definition, but they are often not great at forming and nurturing relationships. Sales people tend to be the opposite. Combining them well can be a significant advantage.

  • Coming in late to the thread, but something I say a lot is that I don't view myself as much of a marketer as I do an educator. My job as a social media practitioner is to help educate and connect internal and external audiences so both can benefit from each other.

    The shorthand is “conversation,” but I view that as a metaphor for deeper connection and relationship.

    …Michael

  • Coming in late to the thread, but something I say a lot is that I don't view myself as much of a marketer as I do an educator. My job as a social media practitioner is to help educate and connect internal and external audiences so both can benefit from each other.

    The shorthand is “conversation,” but I view that as a metaphor for deeper connection and relationship.

    …Michael

  • raynanyc

    Jason, your post really hits home a belief I have long held: you need to like and respect your customers and be passionate about you are 'selling.' Then, remember it's a marathon. Customers are people and don't want to actually feel that they are being 'sold, promoted, messaged, engaged, lead generated, targeted or driven to up-sell. They are pretty marketing aware and realize that there is business to tend to, but that doesn't need to be the prominent message and experience we leave with them. Authenticity matters. I believe that there are many approaches (both nuanced and direct) to facilitate and build upon great experiences and conversations that can contribute and offer real value without leaving customers questioning whether to trust and talk to us. No matter if you're shopping groceries, home improvement tools or luxury goods, attentive service, great products & smart, creative experiences, still go a long way in generating meaningful (and relevant) conversations with people (i.e, customers).

  • raynanyc

    Jason, your post really hits home a belief I have long held: you need to like and respect your customers and be passionate about you are 'selling.' Then, remember it's a marathon. Customers are people and don't want to actually feel that they are being 'sold, promoted, messaged, engaged, lead generated, targeted or driven to up-sell. They are pretty marketing aware and realize that there is business to tend to, but that doesn't need to be the prominent message and experience we leave with them. Authenticity matters. I believe that there are many approaches (both nuanced and direct) to facilitate and build upon great experiences and conversations that can contribute and offer real value without leaving customers questioning whether to trust and talk to us. No matter if you're shopping groceries, home improvement tools or luxury goods, attentive service, great products & smart, creative experiences, still go a long way in generating meaningful (and relevant) conversations with people (i.e, customers).

  • Great post Jason. Conversations are not tweets or Facebook posts/comments. Conversations involve, well, actual conversations. It's amazing how the most basic of things (conversations, caring, engagement, authenticity, relationships, etc.) are also some of the most widely used buzz words in marketing. They may sound cliche or overused, but it is true that conversations, when done right (which sometimes involves not trying to get it right), make a huge difference. Actually being passionate about communication, technology, and most importantly people, is one reason why the word “conversation” resonates with many of us (beyond just making sales) and it's ok to keep using the word as long as we keep having conversations (instead of trying to force them).

  • Great post Jason. Conversations are not tweets or Facebook posts/comments. Conversations involve, well, actual conversations. It's amazing how the most basic of things (conversations, caring, engagement, authenticity, relationships, etc.) are also some of the most widely used buzz words in marketing. They may sound cliche or overused, but it is true that conversations, when done right (which sometimes involves not trying to get it right), make a huge difference. Actually being passionate about communication, technology, and most importantly people, is one reason why the word “conversation” resonates with many of us (beyond just making sales) and it's ok to keep using the word as long as we keep having conversations (instead of trying to force them).

  • davidintrator

    This says is all:

  • davidintrator

    This says is all:

  • suyogmody

    if you think about the “conversational marketing” as customer service, then it's not marketing at all. you are merely helping the customers to get what they want through another channel (social networks) where they are comfortable playing. this is in stark contrast to calling a toll-free number, punching in several digits to get to a person to talk to, waiting waiting waiting and then ultimately getting service.
    it just reduces the barrier between the company and the customer and (ideally) builds brand equity and love which leads to (eventually) more sales!

  • suyogmody

    if you think about the “conversational marketing” as customer service, then it's not marketing at all. you are merely helping the customers to get what they want through another channel (social networks) where they are comfortable playing. this is in stark contrast to calling a toll-free number, punching in several digits to get to a person to talk to, waiting waiting waiting and then ultimately getting service.
    it just reduces the barrier between the company and the customer and (ideally) builds brand equity and love which leads to (eventually) more sales!

  • Hal

    I don't really think of myself as any kind of career marketer, but I do have to engage in some of what you're terming conversational marketing, albeit in very different dimensions. For me that means possibly marketing my potential editorial reach with a publicist over lunch or an evening drink, or attending a regional event for some tourism board or group, or in another medium, responding to a tweet for info on some event or location that I'm up to speed on and can help connect two parties. Whether I “like” the parties or personalities involved has nothing to do with anything, these are just rituals I know the drill on and know how to dial it in at this point in my life.

    As to what the previous poster “krusk” says here: “Car salesman-at least in my experience–are not passionate about the product they sell. They're clearly in it to make a buck and that's why we all see through them and that's where the mistrust comes into play in conversations.” Hate to break the news, but you don't get to be [sic] passionate about every single last thing you do in this life. You do it because it makes money. Yes, you are in it to “make a buck” when you livelink your name and it leads to a blog promising untold fortunes if the reader will just hand over X dollars for a year-long course in the future of social media. That's how capitalism 101 works, as much for you, as for the used car salesman who at least has the basic integrity of just selling a product instead of pretending he's in love with it. The only person that has to be in love with it — oops, “passionate” about it — is you the purchaser, whether it's a car, a house, or any other bill of goods. That's how transactions in the marketplace work — it's dependent and incumbent on you and you alone to be motivated and know your objectives before you enter a transaction. If you need a koombaya moment with a used car salesman or real estate agent or any other type of middleman in this society, because your world is going to fall apart if you don't have “community” for 5 minutes, then maybe the problem lies with you.

  • Hal

    I don't really think of myself as any kind of career marketer, but I do have to engage in some of what you're terming conversational marketing, albeit in very different dimensions. For me that means possibly marketing my potential editorial reach with a publicist over lunch or an evening drink, or attending a regional event for some tourism board or group, or in another medium, responding to a tweet for info on some event or location that I'm up to speed on and can help connect two parties. Whether I “like” the parties or personalities involved has nothing to do with anything, these are just rituals I know the drill on and know how to dial it in at this point in my life.

    As to what the previous poster “krusk” says here: “Car salesman-at least in my experience–are not passionate about the product they sell. They're clearly in it to make a buck and that's why we all see through them and that's where the mistrust comes into play in conversations.” Hate to break the news, but you don't get to be [sic] passionate about every single last thing you do in this life. You do it because it makes money. Yes, you are in it to “make a buck” when you livelink your name and it leads to a blog promising untold fortunes if the reader will just hand over X dollars for a year-long course in the future of social media. That's how capitalism 101 works, as much for you, as for the used car salesman who at least has the basic integrity of just selling a product instead of pretending he's in love with it. The only person that has to be in love with it — oops, “passionate” about it — is you the purchaser, whether it's a car, a house, or any other bill of goods. That's how transactions in the marketplace work — it's dependent and incumbent on you and you alone to be motivated and know your objectives before you enter a transaction. If you need a koombaya moment with a used car salesman or real estate agent or any other type of middleman in this society, because your world is going to fall apart if you don't have “community” for 5 minutes, then maybe the problem lies with you.

    • Hal, no offense to you because everyone is certainly entitled to make a living, but you come across here as a weary lubricant salesman working the yearly convention in Kansas City. That's fine, but I don't think that's what we're talking about here.

      There's a difference (and a grey area) between salespeople having conversations with [potential] customers and marketing specialists pushing information out to [potential] customers. That grey area is where “conversational marketing” or “business opportunism” or whatever the phrase is lies. It's a hybrid activity, it's a modification of business development, it's a tweak of CRM and marketing.

      It's hard to define, but everyone knows when someone's great at it.

      In the way of defending 'krusk' I think that her three pillars of (1) actually enjoy meeting people, (2) authentically listen to what they say, and (3) be genuinely passionate about your company or product, are absolutely terrific. I work for a company about which I am truly passionate. If you don't, that's okay, but it's not necessary to criticize that ideal – because I think it is ideal.

      • Hal

        None of which were any topics — as far as I can make out from what you're saying — that I was addressing.

        I wasn't criticizing your kumbaya moments, I was pointing out that that is not the underlying fundamental to conversational marketing that prompts everyone all of the time. Nor have I ever been to Kansas City. Have you? It's probably nicer than Austin tho:) & certainly much less pretentious.

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  • Nice, Chris! (as I would expect from a fellow Hoosier!)

    You hit on two key points: 1) there is no required length for a conversation to be “successful” and 2) stories are central.

  • “As far as the trust thing goes, I see that not as a function of the platform, but of the people who use it.” Now, there's a quotable comment! Well said.

  • krusk

    The way I see it, the best community managers (or other 'conversationalists') aren't *really* marketers. I don't go out seeking to 'market' my product, I like to meet people because I genuinely like meeting people. I talk to people because I'm genuinely interested in what they have to say. And most importantly I work for a company I genuinely believe in. I think these three things are absolutely important to be trusted in social conversations.

    Car salesman-at least in my experience–are not passionate about they product they sell. They're clearly in it to make a buck and that's why we all see through them and that's where the mistrust comes in to play in conversations.

    I did actually leave a fabulous community manager job, because after not too long I knew I wasn't passionate about what the company did and as such I couldn't do the job. Most of the community managers I know who are great at their jobs are also passionate about what they do.

    I AM a marketer in the sense that I measure traffic, leads, conversions, etc. but the reason to do so is to prove that the conversations do work.

  • krusk

    The way I see it, the best community managers (or other 'conversationalists') aren't *really* marketers. I don't go out seeking to 'market' my product, I like to meet people because I genuinely like meeting people. I talk to people because I'm genuinely interested in what they have to say. And most importantly I work for a company I genuinely believe in. I think these three things are absolutely important to be trusted in social conversations.

    Car salesman-at least in my experience–are not passionate about they product they sell. They're clearly in it to make a buck and that's why we all see through them and that's where the mistrust comes in to play in conversations.

    I did actually leave a fabulous community manager job, because after not too long I knew I wasn't passionate about what the company did and as such I couldn't do the job. Most of the community managers I know who are great at their jobs are also passionate about what they do.

    I AM a marketer in the sense that I measure traffic, leads, conversions, etc. but the reason to do so is to prove that the conversations do work.

  • Smart stuff. When you look at it this way, it might be best to view “conversational marketing” as not really marketing at all. More as the work of a “business opportunist” instead.

    Most people don't go to a party with the intention of pitching their business or selling products, but if you're having a conversation with a friend of a friend who needs an accountant and you happen to be a CPA, it's only natural to make that connection. You didn't go there to sell, you went to hang out with your friends, but when the opportunity presents itself, it's almost expected that you talk business. It would almost be weirder if you didn't mention your profession in that case.

    Similarly, as marketers our goals is to help make a profit, and I think people understand that (even though they may not like it sometimes). This shouldn't stop us from being able to be part of communities though. Even if we do occasionally take the opportunity to “sell” it still falls withing the normal realm of interaction. Just as long as you're there as a person first, and a marketer second.

  • Smart stuff. When you look at it this way, it might be best to view “conversational marketing” as not really marketing at all. More as the work of a “business opportunist” instead.

    Most people don't go to a party with the intention of pitching their business or selling products, but if you're having a conversation with a friend of a friend who needs an accountant and you happen to be a CPA, it's only natural to make that connection. You didn't go there to sell, you went to hang out with your friends, but when the opportunity presents itself, it's almost expected that you talk business. It would almost be weirder if you didn't mention your profession in that case.

    Similarly, as marketers our goals is to help make a profit, and I think people understand that (even though they may not like it sometimes). This shouldn't stop us from being able to be part of communities though. Even if we do occasionally take the opportunity to “sell” it still falls withing the normal realm of interaction. Just as long as you're there as a person first, and a marketer second.

    • Yes, I like this – it's not marketing, it's “guerrilla business development” – so true.

  • I know “Broken Record”…but when you think about search as your primary 'channel', you are by definition “Only offering when relevant”.

  • felixwetzel

    Hi Jason,
    I really like your article. I think one form of purity is to be up front about your intentions, even or especially if they are commercial or as you say driven by marketing goals. As long as they are delivered in an honest and real way, it'll be received well. As long as it solves a problem and makes our life better and more convenient it'll be embraced. But be it conversational marketing or traditional marketing, it's all about offering a life-enhancing and life-simplifying service, delivered in a honest & straight forward fashion. Observing the interaction, the feedback and feedforward loops between the different marketing dimensions is fascinating.

  • felixwetzel

    Hi Jason,
    I really like your article. I think one form of purity is to be up front about your intentions, even or especially if they are commercial or as you say driven by marketing goals. As long as they are delivered in an honest and real way, it'll be received well. As long as it solves a problem and makes our life better and more convenient it'll be embraced. But be it conversational marketing or traditional marketing, it's all about offering a life-enhancing and life-simplifying service, delivered in a honest & straight forward fashion. Observing the interaction, the feedback and feedforward loops between the different marketing dimensions is fascinating.

  • Well said, sir. Thank you for that.

  • The platform may have changed, but our human nature hasn't:

    Plenty of marketers were able to build trust long before conversational/transparent/community-based marketing came around… and plenty others will never build trust with their audiences—irrespective of technology or technique—because they are fundamentally untrustworthy themselves. This isn't a question about conversational marketing per se, but about how well individuals execute on that concept given their own ability to build trust (or not).

    As a platform, I see the brilliance of “conversational marketing” being that companies acknowledge that their message(s) exist within a larger ecosystem that is largely beyond their control, and engage consumers with this in mind.

    As far as the trust thing goes, I see that not as a function of the platform, but of the people who use it.

  • jasonseiden

    The platform may have changed, but our human nature hasn't:

    Plenty of marketers were able to build trust long before conversational/transparent/community-based marketing came around… and plenty others will never build trust with their audiences—irrespective of technology or technique—because they are fundamentally untrustworthy themselves. This isn't a question about conversational marketing per se, but about how well individuals execute on that concept given their own ability to build trust (or not).

    As a platform, I see the brilliance of “conversational marketing” being that companies acknowledge that their message(s) exist within a larger ecosystem that is largely beyond their control, and engage consumers with this in mind.

    As far as the trust thing goes, I see that not as a function of the platform, but of the people who use it.

    • Well said, sir. Thank you for that.

    • “As far as the trust thing goes, I see that not as a function of the platform, but of the people who use it.” Now, there's a quotable comment! Well said.

  • Don't disagree Matt. In fact, I'm working on a larger piece of content
    around this and just wrote on the white board: “Only offer when relevant!”

    Great minds and all. Heh.

  • Well played, Chris. I like the tie-in to search and how conversations can
    evolve organically that way. Great food for thought.

  • Relevancy. It's all about relevancy. When a company reaches out to engage and promote/inform regarding a product or service, it has to do so through a relevant conversation. If the product/services isn't relevant to the conversation already occurring then the attempt hits the wall with a resounding splat. People don't want to be interrupted by a sales pitch. They often actively seek information and opinions, however. Great post!

  • Relevancy. It's all about relevancy. When a company reaches out to engage and promote/inform regarding a product or service, it has to do so through a relevant conversation. If the product/services isn't relevant to the conversation already occurring then the attempt hits the wall with a resounding splat. People don't want to be interrupted by a sales pitch. They often actively seek information and opinions, however. Great post!

    • Don't disagree Matt. In fact, I'm working on a larger piece of content
      around this and just wrote on the white board: “Only offer when relevant!”

      Great minds and all. Heh.

      • I know “Broken Record”…but when you think about search as your primary 'channel', you are by definition “Only offering when relevant”.

  • I really think this is a key to the colliding world of Social and Search.

    Companies solve problems…people 'in' companies solve problems….even car salesman. What's unnecessarily missing is the ability for these people (that car salesman) to tell the story about how they helped someone today. The specifics of that story becomes the Conversational-Information that the searcher is looking for. Soliciting users content is another great source of human/relevant content.

    I think the miss in the idea of Conversational marketing is that the conversation lasts a long time. The reality and we have partially exposed in our study of blog visitors is that these conversations can be very short and still be successful. Consider the scenario:

    Car Salesman blogs about the kinds of cars he recommends to various customers. (housewife, 16year old, long solo commuter etc….)

    Searcher (solo commuter) does a search for 'best commuter car' Salesman shows up because he told a great story that is relevant to this searcher.

    Searcher clicks through and schedules an appointment with the salesman….

    Is this not a terrific example of a conversation? Albeit a quick one, but one that is pretty satisfactory for both parties. And one not based on interruption.

  • I really think this is a key to the colliding world of Social and Search.

    Companies solve problems…people 'in' companies solve problems….even car salesman. What's unnecessarily missing is the ability for these people (that car salesman) to tell the story about how they helped someone today. The specifics of that story becomes the Conversational-Information that the searcher is looking for. Soliciting users content is another great source of human/relevant content.

    I think the miss in the idea of Conversational marketing is that the conversation lasts a long time. The reality and we have partially exposed in our study of blog visitors is that these conversations can be very short and still be successful. Consider the scenario:

    Car Salesman blogs about the kinds of cars he recommends to various customers. (housewife, 16year old, long solo commuter etc….)

    Searcher (solo commuter) does a search for 'best commuter car' Salesman shows up because he told a great story that is relevant to this searcher.

    Searcher clicks through and schedules an appointment with the salesman….

    Is this not a terrific example of a conversation? Albeit a quick one, but one that is pretty satisfactory for both parties. And one not based on interruption.

    • Well played, Chris. I like the tie-in to search and how conversations can
      evolve organically that way. Great food for thought.

    • Nice, Chris! (as I would expect from a fellow Hoosier!)

      You hit on two key points: 1) there is no required length for a conversation to be “successful” and 2) stories are central.

  • A good first step toward conversational marketing would be to ensure your company's conventional marketing materials focus on 'you' and use a friendly, conversational tone.

    Working in B2B marketing, I have seen it's a long way to conversations in social media for most of my clients, but a shift in thinking — from business-TO-business to business-FOR-business — would help in establishing some kind of dialogue.

    I wrote a blog post on the subject, essentially claiming that including 'you' into the marketing equation will in the end guide our whole thinking toward what we as a company can do FOR the customer. If you're interested, the piece is at http://bit.ly/b-for-b

  • A good first step toward conversational marketing would be to ensure your company's conventional marketing materials focus on 'you' and use a friendly, conversational tone.

    Working in B2B marketing, I have seen it's a long way to conversations in social media for most of my clients, but a shift in thinking — from business-TO-business to business-FOR-business — would help in establishing some kind of dialogue.

    I wrote a blog post on the subject, essentially claiming that including 'you' into the marketing equation will in the end guide our whole thinking toward what we as a company can do FOR the customer. If you're interested, the piece is at http://bit.ly/b-for-b

  • I think you've captured the essence of our dilemma as marketers in the social media sphere. But I don't think Cluetrain's notion that “markets are conversations” is completely off-base. It's just that before the rise of social media, marketers weren't trying to converse. Now that we see consumers have the power of these tools — and can converse about our products or services with or without our involvement — we suddenly see the light and try to join the conversation. Problem is, for those trained in traditional marketing, it's difficult to learn how to talk like a real human.

  • I think you've captured the essence of our dilemma as marketers in the social media sphere. But I don't think Cluetrain's notion that “markets are conversations” is completely off-base. It's just that before the rise of social media, marketers weren't trying to converse. Now that we see consumers have the power of these tools — and can converse about our products or services with or without our involvement — we suddenly see the light and try to join the conversation. Problem is, for those trained in traditional marketing, it's difficult to learn how to talk like a real human.

  • Jason,

    Great post – but I wish we had come up with a different name for 'conversational marketing' because it goes beyond marketing and really speaks to the culture of the organization. The vision and support for the concept must come from the top and work its way down and across the business – otherwise, marketing practices conversational marketing, the rest of the company focuses on hitting quota and the customer has an incredibly uneven experience with the entire organization.

    I just wish more organizations adopted this approach rather than just the marketing departments.

    Best,
    Pat

  • Jason,

    Great post – I just wish we had name 'conversational marketing' something else. By including the word 'marketing', it sounds as if this concept/practice is limited to marketing. And the fact of the matter is that if the belief system doesn't exist throughout the organization, the customer will experience either inconsistency

  • bretsimmons

    Your firm can continue to practice interruption marketing as long as your competitors are also doing the same thing. As soon as a competitor gets good at permission marketing, the competitive landscape changes and you will be forced to play catch up. Why not get ahead of your competition and force them to copy you?

  • bretsimmons

    Your firm can continue to practice interruption marketing as long as your competitors are also doing the same thing. As soon as a competitor gets good at permission marketing, the competitive landscape changes and you will be forced to play catch up. Why not get ahead of your competition and force them to copy you?